Small Actions

When we measure our personal success, we often think of the big things. Afterall, we live in a world where bigger is better, and shiny is not shiny enough. It’s easy to fall into the comparison mind trap and to feel like we don’t measure up. When we take inventory and reflect on how “successful” we are, we might ask ourselves questions like: 

Have I run that marathon I keep saying I will run?  

Have I been promoted at work?  

Am I liked/loved? Do I have a lot of meaningful relationships? 

Have I planned the perfect and most memorable vacation for my family?  

Does my home look like my favorite Pinterest board? 

Have I lost those twenty pounds?  

Have I volunteered and raised money yet for my favorite charity?  

While all these types of things that often come to mind can be important, they are not all that matter when measuring success. In fact, I’d like to suggest that the big things in life are not necessarily the big wins. On the contrary, I believe it’s all the small actions we take along the way to get to the “big thing” that are the true win.  

You see, the small actions are the ones we must keep going back to. They require consistency, and consistency requires mental discipline, and of course this is where the challenge lies. Consistency is tough. It’s easier to fall off or simply quit. If you are consistent, that means you have focus, tenacity, and perseverance. These are the character traits that develop from the small actions.  

For example, those twenty pounds…. 

Yes, the scale being twenty pounds lighter is the ultimate goal, it’s the big win you might say, but the weight loss is not the measure of success that counts the most. What counts the most are all the days that you chose to be consistent and make better eating choices, the workouts you trudged through instead of skipping, and the dedication you kept coming back to when quitting would have been much easier. The moments late at night when you wanted to grab that pint of ice cream, but told yourself no, and stuck to the plan. All these small actions are what build the inner muscle and make you stronger, wiser, and better, and without them, you would simply not accomplish the big thing you are after. You would never get there.  

Another example, those meaningful relationships… 

We often automatically associate relational success by the number we have in our tribe. Again, the bigger the better. We may be in our forties or fifties, but still mentally playing into the high school popularity contest. Having a lot of friends is definitely not a negative thing… I’m all for it, but again, it’s the small actions we take on a consistent basis to create not the number, but instead, the quality of relationships in our life. The right kind of small actions lead to healthy, positive, and uplifting relationships.  

Small actions in any relationship look like consistent tokens of respect, consideration, love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness. It’s the days that our friend snaps at us because they’re stressed, and instead of snapping back we tell them we are here for them and it’s okay. It’s the days that even though we are exhausted, we drop a casserole off because we know someone we love is going through a rough time. It’s the card in the mail to say you care just because. It’s the smile and hug when there simply are no words to be spoken. These are all the small actions that build meaningful relationships over time in our lives.  

It all comes down to this. 

No matter what we are accomplishing and successful at, if it’s great, it’s taken hundreds, if not thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of small actions, in the right direction, to get there.  

The marathon, the promotion, the perfect family vacation, the charity, the perfect home, and so on… none of it actually comes to fruition without the small actions.  

There’s an old quote that says, “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”  

Pretty profound, right? This means that each day we choose the small actions that support our overall goal, we are inching our way toward the big win.  

If we are aiming for something big, it can seem daunting. This is when we need to remind ourselves that the small actions, even though challenging, are the things that are molding us into the best version of ourselves.  

So many quit and give up. When we keep taking those small actions each day, we are the opposite of a quitter. We are successful. These are the days that truly measure our personal success. When we could have given up, reacted poorly, lashed out, or just accepted the status quo, and we chose not to. Instead, we kept going, and we took one more small action in the right direction.  

The ordinary, everyday, monotonous, small actions, if in the right direction, have immense power. In a nutshell, they shape our life.  

They are where the rubber meets the road. They are where we develop the grit that keeps propelling us forward. We keep chipping away, small action after small action, until finally we have what we are working or dreaming for.   

So, the next time you measure your personal success, think small not big. Each day, you are doing small, but mighty things to win at this thing we call life.  

Ten Tips for Mental Resilience